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Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

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Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Wed Nov 02, 2011 11:58 pm

An excellent series of articles by Elena Maria Vidal, exploring the true relationship between the Queen of France and Count Axel von Fersen the Younger, a Swedish emissary at the court of Louis XVI.

http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/fersen-legend-part-1.html

Too often in the many articles about Marie-Antoinette that have surfaced in the last year due to the Coppola film, Count Axel von Fersen is referred to as the "queen's lover" or as her "probable lover." It is repeatedly disregarded that there is not a scrap of reliable historical evidence that Count Fersen and Marie-Antoinette were anything but friends, and that he was as much her husband’s friend as he was hers. People are free to speak of Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour as “lovers” since they openly lived together for many years. But to speak that way of Marie-Antoinette, who was known for her purity among her circle of close friends, of whom a courtier said: "Her soul was as white as her face," (Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette) who lost her life because she chose to stay at her husband’s side, is the height of irresponsibility.

The Swedish nobleman was in the service of his sovereign King Gustavus III and Count Fersen’s presence at the French court needs to be seen in the light of that capacity. The Swedish King was a devoted friend of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and Gustavus, even more than the queen’s Austrian relatives, worked to aid the King and Queen of France in their time of trouble. Fersen was the go-between in the various top secret plans to help Louis XVI regain control of his kingdom and escape from the clutches of his political enemies. The diplomatic intrigues that went on behind the scenes are more interesting than any imaginary romance. (The queen’s relationship with her husband is more interesting as well.) However, books and movies continue to add this sensationalism to the queen’s life, as if anything could be more sensational than the reality. Serious modern and contemporary scholars, however, such as Paul and Pierrette Girault de Coursac, Hilaire Belloc, Nesta Webster, Simone Bertiere, Philippe Delorme, Jean Chalon, Desmond Seward, and Simon Schama are unanimous in saying that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that Marie-Antoinette violated her marriage vows by dallying with Count Fersen.

The origins of the legend of Marie-Antoinette’s affair with Fersen began not with her revolutionary foes, who certainly would have picked up on anything of that nature to discredit the queen at her trial. Fersen’s name came up at the trial only in regard to the fact that he had driven the royal family’s coach out of Paris in June 1791 as they tried to escape. It was a courtier, the Comte de Saint-Priest, who made insinuations about the queen and Fersen in his memoirs, probably to cover the humiliation that Fersen had slept with Madame de Saint-Priest, his wife. Madame de la Tour du Pin, a former lady-in-waiting of the Queen, in her memoirs mentions that “the Count de Fersen, said to be queen Marie-Antoinette’s lover, also came to see us everyday.” She says this in a paragraph about her childhood where she is discussing the various men who, according to gossip, were “considered” to be in love with with her mother, Madame Dillon. So the Fersen affair is lumped in with what must be seen as idle rumors.

As Jean Chalon points out in his biography Chere Marie-Antoinette, Fersen, who had many mistresses, saw the queen as an angel, to whom he offered reverent and chaste homage. According to Chalon, Marie-Antoinette knew about sex only through conjugal love, where she found her “happiness,” her bonheur essentiel, as she wrote to her mother. If there had been any cause for concern about Count Fersen’s presence at the French court as regards the queen’s reputation, the Austrian ambassador Count Mercy-Argenteau would surely have mentioned it in one of the reams of letters to Marie-Antoinette’s mother Empress Maria Teresa, to whom he passed on every detail of the young queen’s life. Count Mercy had spies whom he paid well to gather information, but Fersen was not worth mentioning. Neither is he mentioned in a romantic way by other people close to the queen in their memoirs, such as her maid Madame Campan and the Baron de Besenval, a close family friend.
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/fersen-legend-part-2.html
http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/fersen-legend-part-3.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Sophie on Thu Nov 03, 2011 7:02 am

I simply can't understand, why the posterity chose Fersen to be a hero of this Hollywood style love story. There were many other friends of hers, being mentioned both in these Versailles rumours and pornographic pamphlets... Vaudreuil, Besenval, Esterházy, Artois, Coigny... all of them were nothing but tasteless rumours. So why does the posterity still need to believe, like in her age the intriguers did, that she had lover(s)? And then, why did Fersen remain in this ungrateful role? I hate this interpretation because it minimizes Fersen's real attitude as a brave supporter of the royal family... No And, most of all, there are many much more interesting topics about their lives and times, not that ridiculous story. I really hope that this articles will be in time more and more popular among the readers, instead of Hollywood films and pop culture books... It would be so nice Very Happy

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:40 am

Thank you, Matterhorn! Very Happy I totally agree with you, Sophie. I love you It is a Hollywood story that distorts the genuine relationships of MA in every way! And there were others who tried to help the Queen and her family, such as the Baron de Batz, but everyone acts as if Fersen was the only champion. Rolling Eyes

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:12 am

Thank you, Elena! I don't understand it either, maybe people are just fascinated with tall handsome Scandinavians? The romantic hero of the North? Wink Although to be honest, Fersen does not even look *that* handsome to me.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:17 am

I think Louis was much handsomer. And more appealing. Promiscuous men like Fersen never held any charms for me. geek

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Thu Nov 03, 2011 4:37 pm

Fersen has a certain cold irony or smirk about his mouth which I do not like. However, I admire his nobility in genuinely wanting to save the Royal Family.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  princess garnet on Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:28 pm

Not to mention Fersen had a string of mistresses--that seems to be an aside.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:44 pm

Here's part 2. http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/fersen-legend-part-2.html
Authors such as Simone Bertiere, Philippe Delorme, and Nesta Webster make it clear that although Marie-Antoinette might have been in love with Count Axel von Fersen at some point, there is no proof of what may have been in the depths her heart. Certainly, there is no evidence of an extramarital affair, and to over speculate on the queen's personal feelings is to violate the sanctuary of the human heart. Whatever her sentiments, they did not interfere with her duties as wife, mother, and queen. Adultery for a queen of France was high treason and if any of her many enemies at court discovered such a situation, had it existed, Louis XVI would have been forced to take her children away from her and banish her to a convent. Even the most basic knowledge of her temperament suggests that she was devoted to her children and would never have risked being separated from them. Those who claim that Louis XVI “knew” about his wife’s “affair” with Fersen, but looked the other way, are ignoring the moral scruples and religious principles of le Roi très chrétien. He would never have permitted the mother of his children to carry on with another man, as the Giraults de Coursacs make clear in their writings.

The myth of Axel von Fersen as the Marie-Antoinette’s lover evolved after the deaths of both the count and the queen. Although, according to Fersen’s biographer Kermina, the count himself carelessly sewed the seeds of the legend when once upon hearing an opera favored by the queen he sighed, “Ah, those memories….” In 1822 an Irishman named O’Meara published Napoleon in Exile in which he repeated gossip that had been rampant at Bonaparte’s court, about Fersen and the queen, attributed at the time to the queen’s maid Madame Campan. The rumor was proved to be false by British historian John Wilson Croker, who in October 1822 wrote in the Quarterly Review that Madame Campan had not been present at court when certain allegations were said to have occurred. Madame Campan herself refuted any such stories in her Memoirs when she said of Marie-Antoinette:
I who for fifteen years saw her attached to her august consort and her children, kind to her servitors, unfortunately too polite, too simple, too much on an equality with the people of the Court, I cannot bear to see her character reviled. I wish I had a hundred mouths, I wish I had wings and could inspire the same confidence in the truth which is so readily accorded to lies.
Other writers allege that Madame Campan fabricated this statement in order to return to the good graces of Marie-Antoinette’s daughter, who was annoyed with her for having taught Napoleon’s sisters at her finishing school. But then, if Madame Campan was a liar, of what value would her testimony be at all? But people more easily believe stories of scandals than they do stories of virtue....

For many years following, most historians and biographers, including Carlyle, the Goncourts, Imbert de Saint-Amand, de la Rocheterie, Bimbinet, Lenotre and de Nolhac did not take the Fersen story seriously and ignored it. When the letters of the queen and Count Fersen were published by his great nephew Baron de Klinckostrom in the late nineteenth century, they proved the nature of the queen and Fersen’s relationship to be principally a diplomatic one. According to Nesta Webster in Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during the Revolution the letters were “written in a very difficult cipher to which a particular edition of Paul and Virginie provided the key….In certain of the letters, mainly those from the queen to Fersen, passages have been erased and are indicated by rows of dots in the printed text.” The Baron himself wrote that “the Fersen family has retained the greatest veneration for those holy and august martyrs, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and there is nothing among the papers remaining from the Comte de Fersen’s which can cast a shadow on the conduct of the Queen.” (see Webster) The erasures of Fersen were most likely sensitive diplomatic issues, not declarations of love, as some romantics have claimed. They concealed allusions to the queen’s disagreements with her brothers-in-law Artois and Provence, or references to the Duc d’Orleans and other revolutionaries, or even mentions of spies or persons whose families would have been compromised had the letters fallen into the wrong hands. The original letters are lost; some say the Baron burned them in order to keep the cipher from being imitated and used for forgeries; others say he burned them to keep people from discovering proof of a love affair, but there was no love affair to be found, by his own admission.

In 1907 a certain Monsieur Lucien Maury published in Revue Bleue what he claimed to be a fragment of a love letter of the queen to Fersen, which includes the words: “Farewell, the most loved and loving of men. I embrace you with my whole heart….” The letter had no signature, was not in the queen’s handwriting, only in the cipher she used, jotted down by Fersen in cipher. There is no proof it was from the queen but could have been from one of the many ladies with whom Fersen dallied over the years.

In the 1930’s Alma Soderhjelm published the letters of Count Fersen to his sister Sophie, hoping to prove from those letters that the Count and the queen had had a love affair. It is upon Soderhjelm’s book that most of the modern romances about Marie-Antoinette are based. Now in the spring of 1790, Fersen was having a passionate affair with an Italian lady named Eleonore Sullivan, who had been the mistress of several aristocrats, including Marie-Antoinette’s brother Joseph II. She was married to an Irishman but as of 1790 was the mistress of a Scotsman named Quintin Crawford. She was kept by Monsieur Crawford in an elegant house in Paris, where she had a maid named Josephine, and a hideaway for Fersen in the attic. Later authors would claim that when Fersen mentioned “Josephine” in his letters, it was always a code name for Marie-Antoinette. It cannot be ignored that Fersen gave “Josephine” menial instructions about a stove; in that instance he was more than likely referring to Mrs. Sullivan’s maid and the cold room in the attic.

Likewise, the woman Fersen writes ardently about to his sister at this time, who is honored by Sophie’s attentions, is most likely Mrs. Sullivan, whom he refers to as “El” or “elle.” Some try to make the queen the subject of his ecstatic passages, but why would the queen of France, in the midst of so many political intrigues, threatened by death, have wanted to ingratiate herself to Fersen’s sister? "Elle” (capitalized), however, is what Fersen uses when referring reverently to the queen, la Reine, whom he usually mentions in conjunction with the King. Baron Klinckowstrom quotes Fersen’s letter to his father in Feb 1791, in which he writes of his service to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette: “I am attached to the King and the Queen and I owe it to them for the kindness they showed me when they were able, and I should be vile and ungrateful if I deserted them now that they can do nothing for me….”

As the Duchesse de FitzJames, a great-niece of Fersen, is quoted by Webster from a 1893 French periodical La Vie Contemporaine:
I desire first of all to do away with the lying legend, based on a calumny, which distorted the relations between Marie-Antoinette and Fersen, relations consisting in absolute devotion, in complete abnegation on one side, and on the other in friendship, profound, trusting and grateful. People have wished to degrade to the vulgarities of a love novel, facts which were otherwise terrible, sentiments which were otherwise lofty.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:48 pm

And Part 3: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/06/fersen-legend-part-3.html
Much has been made of the letters Marie-Antoinette wrote to her friend Count Esterhazy, and the ring which she sent to Fersen via Esterhazy. In August 1791, after the failure of the escape to Montmedy, the royal couple were isolated and cut off from news about relatives and friends since Fersen, the principle channel for conveying the news, had been silent for almost two months. The Swedish count was in Vienna at King Gustavus’ request on a secret mission, consulting with the Emperor about the possible rescue of the French royal family. The queen wrote to Esterhazy: "If you write to him (Fersen) be sure to tell him that many leagues and many countries can never separate hearts: I feel this truth more everyday.” In September 1791, the queen sent Esterhazy two gold rings which, according to Webster, bore the motto: Domine, salve fac regem et regina. (God save the king and the queen.) Other authors say the motto was Lâche qui les abandonne. (Coward be the one who lets them down.) She wrote:
I am delighted to find this opportunity to send you a little ring which will surely give you pleasure. They have been sold in prodigious quantities during the last three days and one has all the difficulty in the world to find them. The one surrounded with paper is for him (Fersen), it will just fit him; I wore it for two days before packing it. Tell him it is from me. I do not know where he is; it is a dreadful torment to have no news and not even know where the people one is fond of (qu’on aime) are living.
Of course, a ring once worn by a queen is of great value, just like a cap once worn by the Pope. Nesta Webster’s commentary on the rings and letters must be quoted in its entirety:

These letters have again been quoted as evidence that there was a liaison between Marie-Antoinette and Fersen, and that Esterhazy being in on the secret, the Queen did not hesitate to confide in him on the subject. But in reality, what do they prove? Nothing more than that she had great affection for him. That a captive Queen should send royalist rings to two of her oldest and most faithful friends is nothing extraordinary, that she should have referred to Fersen as “him” was only in accordance with the plan of avoiding all names in writing. As to the words “qu’on aime,” aimer is a verb that in French…may mean either to like, to be fond of, to love with affection or to be in love with. It cannot have been in the last sense that Marie Antoinette employed it here, since she applies it in the plural - - “les gens qu’on aime”—that is to say, her friends in general….If she had used it in the amorous sense of one whom Esterhazy knew to be her lover, would she not have said, “celui qu’on aime?” (Nesta Webster, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during the Revolution)

There is much controversy over a certain night in February 1792, when some biographers, including Stanley Loomis and Vincent Cronin, think that Marie-Antoinette and Count Axel von Fersen may have finally consummated their love in her suite in the Tuileries palace. This theory has occurred over a smudged phrase in Fersen’s diary. However, no one knows for certain if the erased phrase was indeed Resté là, Fersen’s usual term indicating that he had slept with a lady. Also, the queen, following her escape attempt, was more closely guarded than ever, with a sentry keeping watch at her door all night, and checking every once in awhile to see if she was in her room – how could she have entertained a lover? The purpose of Count Fersen’s final visit to his friends Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette was to discuss the dire political situation and persuade them to try to escape again, which Louis would not do. Fersen may have had to linger in the palace overnight in order to avoid the revolutionary authorities, but not in the queen’s bed. At his earliest convenience, he made his way to the welcoming arms of his mistress Eleonore Sullivan and stayed at her house in the attic hideaway.

According to the queen’s maid Madame Campan, the queen spent her nights at the Tuileries reading in order to calm her agitated mind. Madame Campan also writes in her Memoirs of how the queen found a confessor who had not taken the constitutional oath, whom she would secretly receive. For Easter of 1792, she would not make her Easter duty in public but arranged to hear Mass privately with a non-juring priest. As Madame relates:
The Queen did perform her Easter devotions in 1792; but she went to the chapel attended only by myself. She desired me beforehand to request one of my relations, who was her chaplain, to celebrate a mass for her at five o’clock in the morning. It was still dark; she gave me her arm and I lighted her with a taper. I left her alone at the chapel door. She did not return to her room until the dawn of day.

So instead of liaisons with a lover, Marie-Antoinette was at that season of her life preparing her soul for the sufferings and death which lay ahead, of which her keen sense of the escalating events gave her a strong premonition. Nevertheless, descriptions of the queen’s religious faith by Madame Campan are often interpreted by some authors as an attempt to win the favor of the queen’s daughter, the Duchesse d’Angouleme. Yet it is acceptable to draw conclusions as if from the air, when it comes to non-existent evidence of Fersen’s alleged romance with the anguished queen. I see no reason why Madame Campan would have fabricated such events, which are similar to other reports of the queen’s religious beliefs and practices, especially her own final testament. Furthermore, at the Tuileries, as at Versailles, a private passage linked the queen’s room to her husband’s. According to Madame de Tourzel, the royal governess, in her Memoirs, one of the first things the queen did after being forcibly dragged to the Tuileries was to have a private staircase constructed between her room and the King’s. It would not be very convenient to dally with a lover when a husband might walk in at any moment from behind the hidden door in the paneling.

The psychology of Count Fersen in his later years must also be taken into account. He was proud of his daring and initiative which had intially delivered Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their family from the Tuileries in June, 1791. However, the failure of the royal family to escape to Montmedy he blamed on the fact that he had not accompanied them after they left Paris; he was haunted by the night of Varennes for the rest of his life. Indeed, he was murdered by a mob in Stockholm about twenty years later on the exact anniversary of the royal family’s escape, June 20. He saw his failure as not only costing the lives of his dear friends, but also for destroying what would have been the glory of his career, to have been the one responsible for the rescue of the French royal family. Webster and Kermina maintain that the count seemed to be always looking for signs that the queen had loved him. He pinned in his diary a scrap of a letter that she had written to someone else, that was passed on to him after her death by Madame de Korff, the Russian lady whose passport Madame de Tourzel had used in the foiled escape. The scrap contained the words: Adieu, mon coeur est tout à vous, “Farewell, my heart is all yours.” The queen expressed herself in such a gushing style to all of her friends and family and although the words were in her handwriting there is no indication to whom it was written. There is evidence, however, that Fersen transcribed known letters of the queen into his journal, and at least in one case altering the original text to make it more personal. He claimed that the queen had once used his seal with the motto: Tutto a te mi guida. “Everything leads me to thee.” Webster claims that she had also used the seal of the monarchist Quintin Crauford in her correspondence – using other people’s seals was a subterfuge employed in sensitive diplomatic correspondence, but Fersen thought the words were meant as a message for himself. As Webster says:
Everything could certainly not be guiding her to Fersen when she was imprisoned in the Temple and had just refused Jarjayes' plan of escape, saying she could have no happiness apart from her children and therefore she abandoned the idea without even feeling any regret.

A phrase from the Queen’s final letter of October 16, 1793, written a few hours before her death to her sister-in-law Madame Elisabeth, has often been interpreted as referring to Fersen. “I had friends. The idea of being separated for ever from them and their troubles forms one of my greatest regrets in dying. Let them know that up to my last moment I was thinking of them….” While the count was probably included among the “friends,” it is more likely that the queen was thinking specifically of the Polignac family. Marie-Antoinette had often referred to the Duchesse de Polignac as her “dear heart,” and had entrusted her children to her care. The two families had been close, with Louis XVI writing to Madame de Polignac and confiding in her, and they had been raising their children together. Marie-Antoinette had a great capacity for friendship, and the persistence of authors in interpreting her friendly interactions in terms of sex and romance is to obscure what was a beautiful aspect of her personality in itself. As she wrote to Elisabeth of her children:
Let them learn from our example how much the consolation of our affection brought us in the midst of our unhappiness and how happiness is doubled when one can share it with a friend—and where can one find a more loving and truer friend than in one’s own family?
For in those last days of Marie-Antoinette it is vital to understand her as a mother who had been violently separated from her children. They were the chief subject of her thoughts, and while she showed indifference to her own fate, the mention of them would reduce her to tears. She was in anguish over her eight year old son, as would any parent whose child had been torn from their arms. Not only was she, like any mother, concerned for his diet and hygiene while in the hands of his captors, but she knew that they were beating him, giving him alcohol, teaching him lewd songs, and subjecting him to other forms of unspeakable abuse. Any mother would almost lose her mind; as for the queen, she only wanted to survive and so someday be united with her son and put her arms around him. What parent would not be tormented if a beloved child was ill in the hospital and they could not be at his side? And yet, in a recently published novel about the queen, I was sickened when the author with extreme mawkishness portrayed the desperate Marie-Antoinette wrapped up in Fersen fantasies while in prison. Such sentimentality and romanticism is obscene, considering the actual bitter and tragic circumstances, expressed by the queen herself to Elisabeth in her last letter: “I embrace you with all my heart, together with those poor dear children. My God! What agony it is to leave them forever! Adieu! Adieu! I shall henceforth pay attention to nothing but my spiritual duties.”

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:14 am

Oh, no! No Just when I thought it was safe to go back to the bookstore! affraid There is a new novel about Count Fersen and the Queen! confused

From the wonderful blog of my friend Amy, who keeps us up to date on the latest in historical fiction:
http://www.passagestothepast.com/2011/11/2012-release-queens-lover-by-francine.html
Release Date: June 14, 2012

SYNOPSIS

The Queen’s Lover begins at a masquerade ball in Paris in 1774, when the dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel von Fersen first meets the mesmerizing nineteen-year-old Dauphine, Marie Antoinette, wife of the shy, reclusive prince who will soon become Louis XVI. This electric encounter launches a lifelong romance that will span the course of the French Revolution.

The affair begins in friendship, however, and Fersen quickly becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family. As he roams the halls of Versailles and visits the private haven of Le Petit Trianon, Fersen discovers the deepest secrets of the court, even learning the startling, erotic details of Marie Antoinette’s marriage to Louis XVI. But the events of the American Revolution tear Fersen away. Moved by the cause, he joins French troops in the fight for American independence. When he returns, he finds France on the brink of disintegration. After the Revolution of 1789 the royal family is moved from Versailles to the Tuileries. Fersen devises an escape for the family and their young children (Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin—whom many suspect is in fact Fersen’s son). The failed attempt leads to a more grueling imprisonment, and the family spends its excruciating final days captive before the King and Queen meet the guillotine.

Grieving his lost love in his native Sweden, Fersen begins to sense the effects of the French Revolution in his homeland. Royalists are now targets, and the sensuous world of his youth is fast vanishing. Fersen is incapable of realizing that centuries of tradition have disappeared, and he pays dearly for his naïveté, losing his life at the hands of a savage mob that views him as a pivotal member of the aristocracy. Scion of Sweden’s most esteemed nobility, Fersen came to be seen as an enemy of the country he loved. His fate is symbolic of the violent speed with which the events of the eighteenth century transformed European culture. Expertly researched and deeply imagined, The Queen’s Lover is a fresh vision of the French Revolution and the French royal family as told through the love story that was at its center.

Oh bother, said Pooh. What a Face Do we really have to go through this again? Sleep

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:28 am

Here is the cover:


Why is the furniture knocked over? confused

Here is some information about the author, Mrs. Gray. Apparently she is known for writing about the Marquis de Sade. Seriously.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francine_du_Plessix_Gray

http://www.style.com/beauty/icon/051105ICON

She is a literary critic who won a Pulitzer prize.

Here is her review of Antonia Fraser's biography:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/23/books/review/23GRAYTTw.html?pagewanted=all

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Tue Nov 08, 2011 5:29 pm

Oh, dear. In that review of Fraser's book, though, she may have a point about Marie-Antoinette suffering from the lack of a royal mistress. (Not that I'm advocating keeping mistresses, of course).

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Sophie on Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:04 pm

It's a ridiculous attempt again to create a "template" fairytale queen which is closer to everyday people than the reality. Read this book, girl, imagine that you are an unhappy queen beloved by a handsome nobleman, imagine that she felt such love as you would feel in her situation. No problem that it has nothing to do with the real life in Versailles, the etiquette, the queen's busy life, the complex clothes impossible to take off fast before a secret liaison... These writers are only interpretating some kind of a Snow White-story or something with some "historical" background for the bigger publicity geek

Anyway, this author seems to be intelligent for me - maybe she just keeps doing what the audience wishes from her to do...?

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 09, 2011 6:47 pm

Yes, Sophie, I am afraid it is true that sex sells. Rolling Eyes Also, people who are from certain highly sophisticated backgrounds just assume that all great ladies have lovers, and so they assume Marie-Antoinette had one as well.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:16 pm

Also, people tend to assume that all royals are adulterous. It's a shame. I once saw someone make a comment to this effect: "Other queens had lovers, so why shouldn't Marie-Antoinette have had one?"

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:24 pm

That's true, M. Many people seem to think that royalty means unbridled sex. Shocked Shocked I will never forget when the first edition of Trianon was published a devout Catholic lady was shocked that MA was wearing a low cut dress, and based on that, assumed the worst. I have tried to explain that it was a matter of court protocol not lifestyle choice but to no avail.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  May on Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:00 pm

Sadly, there is still much ignorance and prejudice regarding these matters. Worse, there sometimes seems to be a downright spiteful interest in dragging royalty through the mud.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Sat May 12, 2012 3:19 pm

From Anna Amber's book blog:

http://vivelaqueen.blogspot.com/2012/05/tea-at-trianon-fersen-myth-in.html

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Wed May 16, 2012 11:18 pm

Elena wrote:Here is the cover:


Why is the furniture knocked over? confused

Here is some information about the author, Mrs. Gray. Apparently she is known for writing about the Marquis de Sade. Seriously.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francine_du_Plessix_Gray

http://www.style.com/beauty/icon/051105ICON

She is a literary critic who won a Pulitzer prize.

Here is her review of Antonia Fraser's biography:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/23/books/review/23GRAYTTw.html?pagewanted=all

Here is a review of the above book by Lucy, one of our forum members.

http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com/2012/05/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html
Due to partiality towards my favourite Queen, Marie Antoinette, I have to admit that I was very reluctant to read this novel. I knew right off the bat that some things in this book would definitely rub me the wrong way…so let’s see how that turned out;)

Written as a memoir, Count Axel von Fersen’s story is presented to us as an edited version published by Sophie, his sister. Hence, there are passages and chapters interjected by Sophie’s account of what happened as well as those by Axel himself. The historical details are incredibly palpable bringing you a sense of actually being there.

Despite the title, I found The Queen’s Lover though to be mostly about the Queen’s life rather than about her alleged lover. Many of the events that occurred are true to the history as can be attested by similar written works already seen on Marie Antoinette. That being said, there are no big surprises here when it comes to Marie Antoinette’s story.

As for the Count’s extraordinary life, it seemed that it was mostly his flagrant sexual encounters that were rendered the most descriptive. His insatiable ravaging of almost any female he encountered rendered his adulterous affairs hard to comprehend the undying love he claimed for his queen…Go figure! In contrast, his great accomplishments read more like facts that happened as these were presented through many quotes and mostly letters to his father.

One thing that pleased me about this novel was that Axel was always portrayed as respectful and caring to both the Queen and Louis XVI. Throughout the book there is not one passage that tears down the character of these two royals. The immense respect and love is felt throughout. I also appreciated the fact that there were no vulgar descriptions or any graphics at all when mentioning the suggestive of Axel and the Queen’s more than friendly relationship (surprising considering the overly descriptive info with his other flings!).

This fact-filled memoir of Count Axel von Fersen’s chapter in Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI’s life is an interesting read.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Mata Hari on Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:08 pm

Another review of the Gray book.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-queens-lover-by-francine-du-plessix-gray/2012/06/14/gJQA4grWdV_story.html
Together, they discuss Saint Augustine’s “Confessions,” attend the opera, coo over their dogs, play backgammon. King Louis XVI, who is very fond of Axel, is his total opposite: hulking, gauche, sloppy — a loaf who eats voraciously, spilling crumbs and gravy onto his capacious chest. Clueless as to how to consummate his marriage for a full seven years, young Louis is the object of considerable ridicule. But the king whom Axel comes to know is warm, kind, fiercely intelligent and, when his children are finally born, deeply in love with his wife.

All the same, the royals are hardly a cozy family. The court that du Plessix Gray brings to life is filled with intrigue and concupiscence. For all its gilded grandeur, Versailles is a filthy, toxic place: infested with rats, choked with human stench, soiled by beggars and prostitutes who relieve themselves in corners of the grand galleries. No wonder the courtiers are so addicted to smelling salts. Little wonder the queen is beguiled by a fastidious Swede.

The reviewer describes Louis as a "loaf." confused Do you think she means "oaf Question

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:13 pm

A "loaf"? Poor Louis. What next. No Suspect Shocked

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Re Marie and Axel Fersen

Post  RoseMarie98 on Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:49 pm

I am a romantic that's why I didn't mind if she had an affair with Axel but I liked Marie and thought not much of it but I guess she didnt. I suppose that proves that he wasn't a heartless person, if he could do so much for her and they were only friends. I think she had more important things on her mind than sex, like her children's safety and her own survival
I think all anyone can do is put the real truth out there

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Sat Jun 28, 2014 5:04 am

I have always been skeptical of the supposed affair. And having read many biographies and done my own research, I have come to the conclusion that there was indeed no physical relationship between MA and Fersen. Antoinette was a devout woman who loved her husband, who was absolutely devoted to her, (and more handsome than others give him credit for), so the idea that she was unsatisfied with him and ran to someone else is ridiculous! I do have other thoughts and questions however that I am hoping Elena or someone else with more knowledge than I might be able to answer!

I think the problem is that in getting away from extreme views of her painted either as "chaste" or a "whore" people place her in the middle with one lover as opposed to many. To me, the quantity matters little. While one lover is "better" than dozens, sin is sin. It's equally wrong and offensive. Religious people slip up too and God forgives all but I just don't believe she sinned in this way. It was too risky and I don't believe she was in love with Axel.

People might say that we shouldn't expect concrete evidence in the matter because Fersen would have wanted to protect the Queen's reputation. I disagree. Really, how discreet could they have been? There aren't really hints in Fersen's very private diaries which he had no reason to believe would be read. I don't think this was because he wanted to make sure no one knew of their "true" relationship even after her death. He strikes me as chilvarois but not too concerned with her reputation in regards to himself. Also MA had no privacy even at Trianon. If she had been gone for a few hours alone with him, someone would have known. I don't believe her friends would have "covered it up" for her either. And certainly those close to her would have known. She could not have fooled people. Although they were loyal to her and wouldn't betray her confidence or sully her name, I find it hard to believe they knew of her "relationship" with Fersen and chose not to say anything.

MA was devout and would have had to send him away. She would have confessed. We don't know what she said to her priests and confessors as it was completely confidential but certainly she would have mentioned Fersen had there been anything more between them and he wouldn't have been allowed to return to court. Adultery with the queen was a crime. And she would not have allowed him to keep coming for the sake of appearance or in order to make it look innocent. It just wasn't done at this time. This was especially true if he had been her continual lover. Though I wonder if she had just given in once or twice, would he have had to be sent away? I am Protestant, not Catholic and am slightly ignorant of the idea of confession. Would she have been absolved then and there of her sin, and as long as the deed was not repeated, would she have been denied sacraments? I read in another conversation that continually living with him would have been treated as a worse sin than perhaps, shall we say, a one-night-stand. I ask because Louis XV and Du Barry were refused certain rites within the church and she had been sent away at his time of death in order for him to die in grace and with forgiveness. The difference is that they lived together openly for many years so there was no dispute that they were lovers, so I wondered how the situation would have been handled if MA had a brief fling with Axel. I'm curious. What actions would the confessor have taken, if any?

She couldn't have deceived everyone and kept it hidden. In one of the latest pieces of historical fiction on her, "Juliet Grey" included the affair and has her feeling triumphant at her trial when the revolutionaries said nothing of Fersen being her lover. She could not have deceived anyone or been so discreet. And I doubt those who knew her would have turned a blind eye to it. Certainly Louis could not have despite his love for her. And her critics definitely would have mentioned him. As I've said, all sin can be forgiven and it is not any of our places to judge. But adultery is a sin I hate very much especially if she would have cheated on someone as kind as Louis.

So I suppose I am slightly prejudiced in my own views as well as there being true lack of evidence. She would still have my sympathy and would be a tragic figure but some of that respect would be gone. Perhaps I'm just biased because I love Louis so much! Fersen slept around and I don't like that in a man. And I don't think Antoinette would have liked to have been with someone with that reputation.

Relating to this, much has been made over a particular night at the Tuileries. I think it's ludicrous to suspect she slept with Fersen here. She was under even more scrutiny than before. The last decade of her life was indeed quite turbulent. However I don't think she would have fallen into another man's arms for consolation. She relied on Fersen for political reasons, nothing more. And she wouldn't have abounded her husband during this time. He was deeply depressed and she needed to support him. Again, she was under heavy surveillance and where were the children? Certainly they would have been around. She couldn't have risked being with another man with so many potential witnesses had she been so inclined.

Whew! Quite a long winded post. My apologies. The idea has just never appealed to me nor made much sense. Antoinette was also very modest and never struck me as an overly sexual woman, affectionate, absolutely, but not one of great carnal desires or even sexually frustrated and unsatisfied. But that's another topic!


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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Elena on Sat Jun 28, 2014 12:12 pm

Thank you for joining the forum and sharing your point of view! ;-)

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Sat Jun 28, 2014 12:37 pm

It's a topic I'm passionate about so, of course! Smile

I do wonder how confession would have worked though. She would have had to send him away regardless, yes? Even if she had only been with him once, so as to rule out further temptation.

She was never denied sacraments so this was not an on-going affair and I doubt it was a short one either. There would have been some repercussions, correct? Besides it was too risky to conceive another man's child. And I don't think she would have slept with her husband and Axel around the same time to avoid suspicion.

And how discreet could they have been? Would she have confided in anyone if they had been together? Her friends certainly couldn't have covered it all up. We will never know I suppose but common sense and my own biases so there was no relationship.

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Re: Marie-Antoinette and Axel von Fersen

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